• 3 Jun, 2024
  • United Zimbabwe Alliance

Environmental Implications of Mining in Zimbabwe

Mining is a fundamental principle of Zimbabwe's economy, contributing significantly to our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and foreign exchange earnings. However, the environmental implications of mining are varied and profound, posing significant challenges to sustainable development and environmental stewardship. Below are the major implications that mining has on our environment:

Deforestation and Land Degradation

  • Mining activities, particularly gold and diamond mining, result in extensive deforestation. Approximately 200,000 hectares of forest cover are lost annually in Zimbabwe due to mining activities (Forestry Commission of Zimbabwe, 2022).

  • Land degradation is rampant in mining areas, with the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development reporting that over 75% of mining operations leave the land unsuitable for agricultural use.

Water Pollution

  • Mining activities contribute to the contamination of water bodies with heavy metals like mercury, lead and cyanide. According to the Environmental Management Agency (EMA), over 70% of rivers in mining regions are contaminated, affecting aquatic life and posing health risks to communities reliant on these water sources.

  • Acid mine drainage is another significant issue, where sulphides in the mined rock react with water and oxygen to form sulphuric acid, leading to the acidification of water bodies.

Air Pollution

  • Mining operations release significant amounts of dust and particulate matter into the air. The World Health Organization (WHO) indicates that particulate matter levels in mining areas often exceed safe limits, causing respiratory problems and other health issues for local communities.

Loss of Biodiversity

  • Mining disrupts ecosystems and leads to the loss of flora and fauna. Areas rich in biodiversity are particularly vulnerable, with mining operations often encroaching on protected areas and wildlife habitats.

Social and Health Impacts

  • The displacement of communities, loss of livelihoods and increased health problems due to pollution are significant social impacts of mining.

  • Health surveys conducted by the Ministry of Health and Child Care show that communities in mining areas report a 50% higher prevalence of respiratory diseases, such as chronic bronchitis and asthma, compared to non-mining areas.

  • Skin conditions are reported to be 30% more prevalent in communities living near mining sites due to exposure to contaminated water and soil.

  • A study by the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA) found that 60% of people in mining areas experience waterborne diseases like diarrhoea and dysentery because of polluted water sources.

The United Zimbabwe Alliance recognises the urgent need to address these environmental challenges and proposes comprehensive solutions to mitigate the negative impacts of mining. These solutions align with the principles outlined in the Zimbabwean Constitution and aim to foster sustainable development:

  1. Strict Enforcement of Environmental Regulations
    UZA will advocate for the stern enforcement of existing environmental laws and regulations, particularly those outlined in the Environmental Management Act (Chapter 20:27). This includes ensuring that mining companies comply with environmental impact assessments (EIAs) and implement mitigation measures.

  2. Rehabilitation and Restoration of Mining Sites
    UZA will implement policies requiring mining companies to rehabilitate and restore mined areas. Section 73 of the Zimbabwean Constitution mandates the right to an environment that is not harmful to health or well-being and requires the state to prevent ecological degradation and promote conservation.

  3. Water Protection and Management
    UZA will prioritise the protection of water resources by enforcing stricter controls on the disposal of mining waste and effluents. Policies will be developed to ensure regular monitoring and assessment of water quality in mining regions.

  1. Community Engagement and Compensation
    UZA will ensure that communities affected by mining activities are adequately compensated and involved in decision-making processes. This aligns with Section 13 of the Constitution, which emphasises the equitable allocation of resources and the participation of local communities in development initiatives.

  2. Promotion of Sustainable Mining Practices
    UZA will promote the adoption of sustainable mining practices, including the use of cleaner technologies and methods that minimise environmental impact. This includes investing in research and development to explore alternative mining techniques.

  3. Strengthening Legal and Institutional Frameworks
    UZA will work towards strengthening the legal and institutional frameworks governing the mining sector. This includes revising the Mines and Minerals Act to incorporate stricter environmental standards and penalties for non-compliance.

The United Zimbabwe Alliance is committed to addressing the environmental implications of mining in Zimbabwe through comprehensive and sustainable solutions. By enforcing environmental regulations, promoting community involvement and adopting sustainable mining practices, UZA aims to ensure that mining contributes to economic growth without compromising environmental integrity and community well-being. UZA believes that the balance between resource extraction and environmental preservation can be achieved, through a united effort. Let’s Unite, As We Build Zimbabwe.